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TournaMental Games

Last weekend, I made the trip to Tacoma with sports writers Kevin Anthony and Craig Craker to cover Kamiakin and Connell's state championship games, capping off a football-filled season that started back in August with our season preview. I wrote last week that I was looking forward to finally covering a close game featuring the high-powered, multi-faceted Kamiakin offense that usually forced the Braves' hapless opponents into desperation mode by the second quarter.

Well, neither situation happened, as perennial state champions Bellevue used some sort of nuclear-powered 180-degree table turner on Kamiakin, shutting them out 38-0.

Instead of my usual amateur game recap, peppered with photos, I'll use this week's entry to show tighter edits of the two games. For Kamiakin, these 22 photos are still a slightly flabby edit, but far more concise than the McGuire Twins-esque galleries I produced, with 62 photos from the first half and 51 from the second.

While editing is definitely a weakness, these excessively loose collections result from more than that skill deficiency. If I'm going to blanket an event like I did, especially when sent across the state for an occurrence as rare as a local state championship berth, I'm going to use the photos I like. Even with the bloated twins, I left out a lot of photos that would have made the cut in a regular-season gallery, when numerous other assignments limit the amount of time spent at each game. Still, I'll be the first to say that 113 photos is way too many for the average person to wade through, though web traffic has been steady even days after the game.

If you're interested, here's a link to our complete Kamiakin coverage throughout the season, but here's my tighter take of the state game, without my usual grandiose interruptions.

My disappointment was nearly as crushing. Wanting nothing more than a competitive game to cover, I had to grind it out at another hopeless blowout. I've written repeatedly that because I don't have any ties to the area that I don't root for our local boys, but it was hard not to pull for them as tar and other fluids leaked out during the manhandling. A west side photographer even told me before the game that he was really hoping Kamiakin would destroy Bellevue, if only to mix up the season storyline he'd grown bored with.

As I struggled with molasses-sticky-slow interwebs access at the hotel, cobbling together the behemoth twins, I felt a twinge of regret, having argued so fervently for a chance to cover the state game. I pushed those fleeting thoughts aside since there was no way to know it would turn out this bad, but having to cover Connell's 1A title game against Cascade Christian on Saturday morning meant I would miss my Ducks playing in perhaps the most meaningful Civil War game ever.

I went in with my already neutral expectations of the game significantly lowered by Kamiakin's decimation, a little sore from rolling with three cameras at Friday's game and nervous for the football game I was most excited about.

It's funny how things work out, as the title game turned into a highly entertaining shootout, punctuated with some gutsy plays and featuring Connell's Matt Hadley, who is so good that watching his 144 yards rushing and four touchdowns felt like Cascade Christian was keeping him in check.

I produced a pre-Subway-diet-Jared-sized gallery from this game, featuring 83 photos and very little shame from myself. I cut it down to 22, somewhat arbitrarily, to match the size of the Kamiakin edit for comparison.

The back and forth fireworks display had me grinning despite the constant hustling up and down the field and shoulders knotted from the constant shrugging needed to keep the cameras from slipping. Suddenly the trip had some meaning. This was the game I had been waiting for all season, and the most entertaining game I had covered since "The Scuffle."

But then why aren't my photos from the Connell game as good? The coaches gave me great access and while I didn't work the pregame stuff as hard as I did with Kamiakin, I put effort into not only covering the action, but the atmosphere. I don't think I succeeded, though, and it's disheartening that my photos from the terrible game are better than those from the terrific one.

It's not like my Kamiakin coverage was epic or anything, but I'm pretty happy with my take. There were a few kinks to iron out. First, not having shot with three cameras at once in a long time meant I wasn't quite sharp on my camera-switching decisions. This missed reception by Tim White is way too tight, and had I switched from my 300/2.8 to the 70-200/2.8, I might have gotten a better shot out of the play:

Or he could have done me the courtesy of turning my way, I suppose. I had the opposite problem when I found myself out of position to photograph some students who offered moral support as the team stared at the ground on the way to the locker room after a deflating 31-0 half.

These were minor flubs, however. The real frustration stemmed from the live TV coverage. That hair-pulling reality was constant while I was covering Division I games at the University of Oregon, but I had grown accustomed to the relatively free reign I had while covering local prep sports.

What makes it suck? The sound dish guys are always posted at the edges, obscuring sideline plays downfield. Furthering this annoyance was the guy whose job it was to walk onto the field and raise his DayGlo orange arms to signal media timeouts. The inane job should be mostly unobtrusive, but this guy kept stepping out into the no-fly zone, making matters worse.

You can see the white line that everybody else stood behind, adhering to the laws us mere mortals had to obey, lest we be ejected. If I had a 400/2.8, I could have avoided him and shot from the end zones, but 300mm is not enough when the action is on the other side, and my WIAA rule-bending tactic of shooting from where the players stand is a definite no-no.

That didn't bother me during the 3A game, but it was annoying at the 1A game, when dozens of yards of unclaimed sideline were enticing me while the action was afar.

Not having to deal with the live TV accoutrement helped soften the blow. I wasn't disappointed when I was out of position to effectively capture Connell's Kade Eppich dropping a short, easy pass that would have been close to a first down as the Eagles' last-ditch fourth and long effort ended, cementing their 42-35 loss:

That wasn't nearly as disappointing as not adequately photographing Connell's daring onside kick to start the second half:

Just like in play-calling, you take risks when choosing your shooting spots and when Connell's last gasps were sputtering out, I decided to wait downfield. I knew that if they lost possession on downs, I wouldn't have the best chance at capturing it, but that was OK. Their loss wouldn't be entirely predicated on that failure. What I couldn't live with was Connell busting out a huge gain when I was in position for a short play. With my previous screw-ups at switching to shorter glass in mind, I was ready to go wide in case a Connell player came rumbling down my sideline, with his teammates on the bench chasing from the forbidden zone, hooping and hollering.

Clearly, that didn't happen, but those are the gambles and mind games I put myself through when covering football solo. There's a lot of field out there for one person and you're constantly weighing your options. Maybe the highly offensive game contributed to my lesser photo coverage since I was perpetually afraid of missing the pivotal play. It's hard to say — just like there's no knowing when I'll have the chance to cover such a meaningful game again. No time to dwell, though, as it's time for basketball and wrestling, but here's hoping I'll learn from my shortcomings the next time I have an opportunity like last weekend.


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